Everyone knows how Henry VIII noticed Anne Boleyn dancing one day and promptly had to have her, which then set him up for the succession of wives afterwards. But before all that.. who was Bess Blount? Was she a flighty air headed girl? What was the relationship between she and Henry really like, especially since he was at his prime? How did pious Queen Katherine treat her rival? How did Henry's other mistresses treat Bess? Why did she leave the court? Did Henry shush her aside once she was with child? What was it like to be a mistress to a man whom everyone wanted a favor from? Why didn't she have the stuff that Anne Boleyn had to make Henry marry her?
My questions were answered with Diane Haeger's novel on the mysterious lady who seemingly loved King Henry VIII. Haeger portrayed the relationship without rushing, as she made the reader get to know Bess and wish for her to take a different path, safely away from a ruthless king. Yet Henry is not quite the murdering king we have come to know, as he is still young and vibrant and full of hope. Bess's own life is like an open book with Haeger's writing, although besides the facts we will truly never know what depths of emotions there were between Henry and Bess, I was impressed and satisfied with the story that Haeger writes, which finally fills in so many blanks regarding Bess Blount and her family as she spun her tale with devotion and patience to the subject. It was tenderly written with sweet as opposed to bawdy sex scenes and the ending of the story had me dabbing at my eyes. I enjoyed the book more for the amount of time it encompassed, from Bess' arrival at court at age fourteen to Bess's second marriage while following along King Henry's own timeline of subsequent mistresses and marriages. The reader is also treated to well-known players at Henry's court such as Wolsey, Katherine of Aragon, and Henry's bastard son. One wonders how close England could have been to having his bastard son in succession to the throne which could have set a precedent for England. Haeger's novel on Bessie Blount is one that will be most appreciated by Tudor fans who have always longed to know what went on behind Henry's closed doors and in his heart with regards to one of his first acknowledged mistresses.